Honoring Black History Month - By Waking Up White
By SusanNaimark on February 20, 2014
“That workshop is for people of color.”
I once got this response to a workshop on racism I had planned, from a white colleague at a national conference. Confession: I’m white, and used to think that way too – that anything specifically about race was targeted to people of color. Until I started to venture into discussions on racism. I quickly learned that talking, and doing something about, racism is, in fact, a white problem. This was mind-bending.
At first, it was frightening, too. Frightening to name out loud the racialized interactions around me that I had been socialized to not see or talk about. Then even more frightening to begin to understand that I was complicit in perpetuating racism. Not me! This is the fear of every “good” white liberal – to be called racist. It is a hard pill to swallow, to hold up the mirror and know that I move through life in this country benefiting from my white skin. All the time. Whether I want to or not. And that the only way to be consistent with my “good” progressive values is to actively do something to challenge the racial status quo.
The newly published book, Waking Up White, is an invaluable primer for anybody looking to make this leap. In it, first-time author Debby Irving shares painfully honest reflections on the process of finding her place in the story of race. Irving has methodically and eloquently documented the process of socialization that kept her from understanding racism or white privilege – and the process of unlearning the racial myths that are foundational to U.S. mainstream culture. Waking Up White is brimming with specific, gentle guidance – on leaving our comfort zones, on the internal reflective work, and the external supportive work that white people can and must do to confront the demons of racism and white skin privilege.
February is a great month to learn about Black history. It’s an even better month to wake up to what it means to be white in this country.
Check out Waking Up White at http://debbyirving.com/the-book/
Learn more about Naimark’s racial justice training and consulting services at www.naimark.org